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Relative quality of Rangefinder LTM Manufacturers
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 1:41 pm    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

This is the kind of dialog that I have been looking for. I am buying to shoot not collect, and frankly have been ""afraid"" of the russian glass, as the few I have tried in Nonrangefinder have either been hazy fungused, or frankenfixed by someone.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In good condition, the Russian RF lenses are really great.

Here's some comparison images of M39 135mms:

#1 Canon

#2 Komura

#3 Zeiss Opton Sonnar (Contax bayonet)

They all have clean glass, in excellent shape, the Zeiss is remarkably contrasty for a single coated lens. I have several J11s in Contax RF and M39 and the best, from 1953, 1955 and 1957 are so close to the Zeiss in performance it dispels the myth that the Russians couldn't make very fine glass, the 1955 Zeiss Opton is contrastier, but in all other regards, the J11 is the same. Actually, I have another 1950s RF 135mm that is the equal of the Zeiss - sharper, especially wide open at f4, but slightly less contrasty, and that is a Schneider-Kreuznach Tele-Xenar 4/135 for DIAX.

If I was going to rank my 1950's RF 135s:

1. Zeiss Opton
= S-K Tele-Xenar
3. J11
4. Canon
5. Komura
= Kyoei Acall

They are all very fine lenses though, all superbly made, the J11 only being a little less finely finished than the others, but it is also the lightest, along with the Schneider, as those have aluminium rather than brass barrels. You have to nitpick to really discern the differences, apart from in overall contrast, where the Zeiss stands out and the Komura and Kyoei are a little bit lower than the others.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting those pics, I just picked up a Tele-Xenar yesterday in a ""pile"" that I bought looking even more forward to shooting it now... I didnt realize that they were perhaps on par with the big guys....

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Allow me some general comments on your topic:

I don't know if you are aware of the issue that your Sony A7 series camera may have difficulties with some RF lenses; particularly with wide angle ones. That may result in color shift or smearing edges and is not the fault of the lenses.

I'm using RF lenses mainly from Leitz and Voigtlaender from 12 to 280mm BUT on the Ricoh GXR-M which has been specifically developed for the use with RF lenses hence those lenses which might perform not as good on your camera are performing better or at least differently on mine. Additionally my camera is APS-C only hence the weakest outer corners of the lenses are not used at all what I'm considering as an advantage at least for the final picture quality.

From that point of view it doesn't make much sense to recommend you anything as you should rather concentrate on the experience of other A7 users to be on the safe side and to avoid some frustrations.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

newst wrote:

The Soviet lenses are a different story altogether. You play the lottery every time you buy one unless you deal with a known entity like Fedka or have access to the lens before you buy. If the lens you buy was well built initially and hasn't been destroyed by amateur repair attempts it is likely to be excellent optically. The Soviet Sonnars, Jupiter-3, Jupiter-8, Jupiter-9 and Jupiter-11 can produce awesome images. The Jupiter-12 is a fine Biogon. The Industar line of Tessar derivatives are competant performers. .

The last Jupiter-3 that was sent to me to work on had been bought from Fedka. It went from Fedka to Australia, to me, and back to Australia. That's about $75 in shipping alone. It was missing one of the Guide Pins that holds the helicals together. The focus was inconsistent as it wobbled going through range. The lens was a "New In Box" late Valdai Jupiter-3. The reason why the second pin had been left out: the slot that the pin moves in was cut incorrectly, it was uneven and the guide pin when inserted would jam. I used an exacto knife to cut the side of the rails, this fixed the problem. Be sure to have return privilege when buying a Russian lens, or be prepared to fix just about anything that pops out of the can of worms. The sample-to-sample variation was much higher with the later lenses. The earliest lenses also have a lot of variation as there was a learning curve involved with making them.


Late Canon 135/3.5, wide-open, perfect glass:

Spring 2016 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

And a 1937 Carl Zeiss Jena 13.5cm F4, set in a 1970 LTM Jupiter-11 mount, wide-open.

Gunston Hall by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

The bloom on this uncoated lens increases transmission and reduces reflections, a natural coating.

Both lenses on the Leica M9.

And a look at what it took to make my "NIB" Valdai work on the M9:


Grind the mount down and move helical deeper into it to achieve infinity focus, Drill new Taps for the focus ring, change the shim, get the metal filings out of the helical from the guy who made the original set screw taps, re-index the aperture ring.

I've seen Jupiter-3's and Jupiter-8's screwed up from botched repair attempts, but I've also seen a lot of them screwed-up right from the factory. Those are my favorites: the glass is usually perfect as no one ever used them.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many Leica Mount lenses are showcased here:


I have shot with 200+ Jupiter-3's, disassembled and CLA'd them.

The Lomography Jupiter-3+ has a better choice of materials, and is better made than the Jupiter-3+. Focus was spot-on out of the box with my two.

Last edited by fiftyonepointsix on Sat Nov 04, 2017 3:56 pm; edited 1 time in total

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gatorengineer64 wrote:
Thanks for posting those pics, I just picked up a Tele-Xenar yesterday in a ""pile"" that I bought looking even more forward to shooting it now... I didnt realize that they were perhaps on par with the big guys....

Ask me, Schneider-Kreuznach is one of the big boys! Cool

PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 is also really nice IMHO Wink

PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are a couple of pics I took with my Serenar 50mm f/1.8 that came with my Canon IIIa rangefinder. This is a chrome-plated brass lens, so I'm assuming it's from the early 50s.

I mounted the lens to my 10.1 mp EOS XS (1000D) DSLR and was obviously only able to use the lens as a macro. I think the farthest I was able to move away from my subject was about 7 or 8 inches.

So anyway, here's an image of some acorns I shot. The lens was set to f/8. See that little shiny round brown thing on the center acorn?

Here's a 100% crop. Turns out that little tiny brown thing is a bug! Pretty decent resolution for a lens that's over 60 years old.

So what's this lens like wide open, you may be wondering? Well, wonder no more. Here's the acorns shot at f/1.8:

And a crop of that shot:

So, great sharpness even wide open, just a much narrower depth of field.

PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lightshow wrote:
visualopsins wrote:
Maybe I'm out of touch, $500 should purchase the best of rf lenses shown here at mflenses. Research!

Can you point me in the direction of a Leica M 135/3.4 APO that sells for $500. Smile

You can buy a 135/4 Elmar for less than $250 or a version 1 Tele-Elmar for less than $500 if you shop around a little. Both lenses are almost apochromatic and can deliver superb results. I paid $120 for my well worn Elmar and it's truly a great lens. Only drawback is the longish minimum focus distance.

Here's a comparison between Tele-Elmar, Elmarit and Apo-Telyt 135mm lenses:

Credit: https://www.apotelyt.com/photo-lens/leica-m-135mm-options